Tech Startup Nectome Debuts '100% Fatal' Brain Upload Service

Thursday, 15 March 2018 - 10:34AM
Technology
Medical Tech
Neuroscience
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Thursday, 15 March 2018 - 10:34AM
Tech Startup Nectome Debuts '100% Fatal' Brain Upload Service
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
In Futurama, one piece of bizarre sci-fi technology that shows up a lot is human heads kept alive in glass jars. This is played for laughs – and for celebrities to guest star on the show long after they should, by all rights, be dead.

Now a company named Nectome (ominously combining Greek words for "corpse" and "to cut") is offering this exact service. Customers can have their brains preserved for centuries, exactly as they exist, housed in a glass container without degrading or decaying over time.

The logic behind this is the same principle governing cryogenics (which also figures prominently in Futurama). Nectome's co-founder, Robert McIntyre, bills the service as an opportunity to enjoy a digital computer upload in the distant future. Unlike cryogenics, there's no need to thaw out a brain with this system – so long as digital brain mapping can work on an embalmed mind.

The technology to digitize a brain doesn't exist (yet), but presumably will at some point in the future. Nectome will allow brains to be embalmed and perfectly preserved while awaiting upload... Once scientists figure out how to do this.

Since the process involves removing a person's brain from their body, McIntyre is quick to point out that this procedure is "100% fatal."

Furthermore, the service isn't intended for healthy people who just want to take their brains online. Instead, it is meant for the terminally ill: people who have nothing left to lose. An artificial heart and lung machine will pump embalming fluids into the brain while the patient is still alive (under general anesthetic) so that the brain can be preserved while still functioning.

Then, it's just a matter of waiting until brain-upload technology is developed at an undetermined point in the future before the brain can be scanned and digitized. What could possibly go wrong?



Nectome plans to make the process as painless and comfortable as possible. In essence, it will function exactly like euthanasia, which is legal under certain circumstances in some parts of the US. This business plan doesn't necessarily need to prove right now that scientists will ever actually be able to digitize a brain, but it is important to make sure that potential customers have full faith they will be given a peaceful, comfortable end-of-life experience that will keep their brains in perfect working order for a future revival.

According to McIntyre:

Opening quote
"The user experience will be identical to physician-assisted suicide. Product-market fit is people believing that it works."
Closing quote


As far as proving their technology, the team behind Nectome have already made a lot of headway. (No pun intended.) The company won an $80,000 science prize for preserving a pig's brain in such detail that every synapse was visible through a microscope, and they've even managed to preserve the brain of an elderly woman just 2.5 hours after she died.

For those who are desperate enough to try this process, Nectome's morbid service offers a ray of hope. If all works out, this could well be the secret to attaining everlasting life.

The only problem? Your brain is trapped in a jar for decades or centuries, and you've already paid... So nobody exactly has any incentive to email you to your loved ones.

Still, the celebrities in Futurama always seem to be having fun, so this can't be all that bad!

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Tech Startup Nectome Debuts '100% Fatal' Brain Upload Service
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